What Is Cardiomyopathy?
Cardiomyopathy is a health condition that affects heart muscles. In this disease, the heart muscles become weak and are not able to pump blood to the rest of the body. It can lead to heart failure.
There are mainly four types of cardiomyopathy:
- Dilated cardiomyopathy: This is the most common type of cardiomyopathy that occurs when the heart muscle becomes too weak to pump the blood. With muscles becoming thinner, the chambers of the heart can expand. This condition is also known as an enlarged heart.
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: This is known to be a genetic condition where heart walls thicken and prevent the blood flow in your heart.
- Restrictive cardiomyopathy: Quite rare, this type of cardiomyopathy occurs when heart ventricles get stiff and cannot fill up the blood. This can be due to some underlying heart disease.
- Arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD): ARVD is a rare form of cardiomyopathy that can lead to fatality. In this condition, the muscles of the right ventricle are replaced by fat and extra fibrous tissues.
In the early stages, the patient may not experience any cardiomyopathy symptoms. It is only after the disease has progressed to an advanced stage that signs and symptoms of cardiomyopathy begin to appear. Some of the common ones are:
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling in legs, ankles, and feet
- Bloating in the abdomen
- Rapid and fluttering heartbeat
- Discomfort and pressure in the chest
- Fainting attacks
- High blood pressure
Upon the appearance of these symptoms, you should seek medical care as soon as possible.
Who Is At Risk?
While cardiomyopathy can affect people of all ages and gender, there are certain factors that can increase your chances of developing the disease. Common risk factors of cardiomyopathy include:
- A family history of cardiomyopathy or any other heart disease
- High blood pressure
- History of heart attack
- Coronary artery disease
- Severe obesity
- Drug consumption
- Chemotherapy or radiation therapy drugs
- Other heart conditions such as amyloidosis, sarcoidosis, or connective tissue disorders
In most cases, knowing the exact cause of cardiomyopathy is difficult. However, it is related to some health conditions that can be considered as causes of cardiomyopathy. These include:
- Genetics: If you have a family history of cardiomyopathy or heart diseases such as heart failure, chances are high you may also develop the condition.
- Heart Conditions: Heart attack, coronary artery disease, and heart valve issues may cause cardiomyopathy.
- Alcoholism: Alcohol abuse is also one of the leading factors that may lead to cardiomyopathy
How Is Cardiomyopathy Diagnosed?
Diagnosis of cardiomyopathy usually begins with a physical examination. The cardiologist will record your heartbeat, ask for symptoms, and take note of your personal and family medical history. If the doctor suspects cardiomyopathy, you may be required to take a few tests to confirm the condition:
- Chest X-Ray
- Electrocardiogram (ECG)
- Treadmill Stress Test
- Cardiac MRI
- Cardiac CT Scan
- Cardiac Catheterization
- Blood tests
Depending on the cardiomyopathy test results, the doctors will chart out the treatment plan.
How Is Cardiomyopathy Treated?
Cardiomyopathy treatment aims at controlling the symptoms and preventing the condition from worsening. For this, the cardiomyopathy doctor may follow various methods such as:
- Medications: You may be prescribed cardiomyopathy medicine to control symptoms such as high blood pressure.
- Devices: The doctors often plan certain types of devices through surgery which can improve your heart’s function. Some devices are Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD). Ventricular assist device (VAD) and pacemaker.
- Surgery: In some cases, surgical procedures such as septal myectomy may be performed to remove the damaged part and improve blood flow.
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How Can Cardiomyopathy Be Prevented?
Cardiomyopathy prevention is not possible in most of the cases. However, you can take the following steps to reduce the chances of getting any other heart diseases:
- Quit and avoid alcohol
- Keep a tab of your blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet
- Perform regular exercise
- Sleep well and reduce stress
In case you have a family history of cardiomyopathy, consult a doctor if you ever experience the symptom.